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COVID-19 In Rural Iowa

Charlie Neibergall
AP Photo
Casino-goers wait in line to enter the Prairie Meadows Casino in Altoona, Iowa, on June 15, 2020.

Depending on where someone lives, it may seem like the COVID-19 lockdown is a long-forgotten moment from the past. In certain parts of Iowa, many residents can be found roaming the streets without masks and without physical distancing. In other areas, stores require patrons to mask-up before entering. As cases in Iowa continue to grow, host of Talk of Iowa Charity Nebbe speaks with guests about the disparate experiences with COVID-19 throughout the state.

Dave Peters, associate professor of sociology at Iowa State University explains that many rural residents don't feel or see the direct impacts of COVID-19 as much as urban residents. In a more urban environment such as Iowa City, residents can see the lines of cars waiting to get tested at the hospital, and most likely may even know someone who had or has the virus. In rural communities, the outward appearance seems less dire. This gives residents a "false sense of rural immunity," Peters says. He worries that this false security could potentially lead to even more rural areas becoming COVID-19 hotspots.

There are many layers to how susceptible a person is to contracting COVID-19. Many of Iowa's rural residents work in meatpacking facilities, adding another layer to their likelihood of contracting it: crowded working conditions where PPE isn't abundant. 



  • Dave Peters, associate professor of sociology, Iowa State University
  • Nicole Novak, assistant research scientist, community and behavioral health, University of Iowa
  • Shawna Ramirez, co-owner Tequila’s Mexican Bar and Grill in Northwood
  • Alejandro Ortiz, community organizer in Des Moines
Matthew was a producer for IPR's River to River and Talk of Iowa
Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa